Last month, an article in the Star Tribune revealed a disturbing partnership between Axon Enterprise Inc. (Taser) and a public hospital.
For 14 years Axon has been paying the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) more than $1.1 million to help convince juries and the public that Tasers are lifesaving devices. Axon has been paying two doctors between $20,000- $36,000 a year to write hundreds of Axon-funded stories and serve as Axon medical advisors.
Two researchers in leadership positions at HCMC have served as medical advisers for Axon, and the hospital’s research arm conducted 22 Axon-funded studies, hospital records show. For at least eight years, Axon paid the hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. William Heegaard, $20,000 annually to serve on the company’s medical advisory board until he resigned this year. Heegaard has disclosed in studies that he also has owned Axon stock.
Dr. Jeffrey Ho, medical director for EMS at HCMC, doubles as Axon’s contract medical director for at least 32 hours per month. Every three months, the hospital bills Axon $34,344 to cover Ho’s shifts while he’s working for the company, records show. Ho bills the company directly for outside work, which amounted to $36,000 last year, according to Hennepin Healthcare spokesman Tom Hayes.
The Hennepin hospital also signed an additional contract with Axon “to make its security personnel available for conferences and other appearances promoting its use of Tasers to protect patients, staff and guests.”
Axon’s disturbing re-branded image
Taser has been re-branded; they are now calling themselves “Axon/Protect Life.” Axon claims their shock devices save lives; “we create technologies and services that enable you to capture truth and protect life.”
I wish everyone would read Axon’s incredulous public safety mission…
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Your mission every day is to protect life. So is ours. We are Axon, a team committed to pushing the boundaries of technology to help you feel more confident in the field, at the station, and in court. From Smart Weapons, like our TASER devices…
What is a “smart weapon” Taser?
Axon’s “smart weapon” Tasers automatically reload and measure how much electric shock is being applied to a suspect. If the Taser thinks the suspect needs more of a shock it increases the voltage.
So, who is at fault when a Taser shocks a person so much that they are permanently injured or killed?
The Star Tribune mentions how Axon was named as a defendant in 49 wrongful-death or injury lawsuits and that is about it. It did not mention one of the largest Taser injury settlements to date which was for $9.5 million after Jose Lopez lost half of his head. It also failed to mention the five-part Reuters story revealing how Tasers have been responsible for at least 1,005 deaths as of 2017. A Google search for “stun guns cause death” returned nearly 5 million hits.
Re-branding Tasers and denying that police sound cannons injure people will not hide the facts. People across the country are being injured and killed by these dangerous devices.